Pere Ubu – 30 Seconds Over Tokyo

Pere Ubu came out of Cleveland in the mid-Seventies with an abrasive avant-garde sound unlike anyone before or since. This was their remarkable debut.

In 1974 I was 16 and listening to Bowie and Eno and Roxy and Sparks. I was in my last year at school and I probably thought I was pretty cool.

Over in Cleveland, Ohio, a band called Rocket From The Tombs were writing this song, which put my ‘edgy’ taste into perspective.

Against a lurching rhythm that sounds like a Sabbath tribute act trying to play reggae, it tells the story of the Doolittle Raid – a WW2 air raid on Tokyo by US bombers in retaliation for Pearl Harbour.

And it tells it – in an unconventional voice dripping with desperation, in a maelstrom of dissonance – from the perspective of a suicide pilot.

David Thomas, who sings the lyrics he wrote for his previous band, Rocket From The Tombs, regards this as the nearest he ever came to writing a straight-up pop song.

Which tells you all you need to know about a man who used to go by the name Crocus Behemoth and scared the bejayzus out of me when I first saw his next band Pere Ubu – a huge man wielding a hammer and anvil onstage at the Marquee.

When the Rockets split in 1975, Thomas and guitarist Peter Laughner formed Pere Ubu while Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz went on to become The Dead Boys.

Thomas (then going by the name Crocus Behemoth), was a huge man who terrified the bejayzus out of me, wielding a hammer and anvil onstage when I saw them at the Marquee.

I think they recorded this at the end of 1975 and at some point it got a re-release on a 12-inch single, backed with Heart Of Darkness, which I must have bought in the punk era. It still sounds like nothing before or since.